Checking Out of The Carb-Sane Asylum
I’m the first one to raise an eyebrow when something’s too good to be true. In fact, I’ve managed to avoid most common weight loss and exercise scams out there despite my desperation for a ‘quick fix’ to my health and weight issues. And while I extol the virtues of low-carb living based on my personal results, I also realize its efficacy is based only on its science and is subject to change when the next great metabolic hypothesis comes along. To that end, I sometimes wonder if low-carb eating is too easy to be true and I look for alternative perspectives or information that disproves the benefits of a low-carb approach. This requires me to troll the Internet for articles and information to compare and contrast the science of low-carb eating.
Every now and again when I search for contrarian viewpoint, I stumble across a website that makes me scratch my head and say “now why would someone say/do that”. This was my reaction when I found a particularly vitriolic website dedicated to exposing the alleged fallacies of the low-carb and Paleo eating movements and their proponents.
The site euphemistically calls itself “The Carb-Sane Asylum” and touts a welcome to “all seeking refuge from low carb dogma”. However, such refuge would seem to come at a price – you must sift through page after page of pseudo-intellectual, anti-LC dogma, sprinkled with data graphs, confusing medical terminology and abbreviations that only the ‘in the know’ understand. All of these rhetorical devices appear to be used to suggest critical thought analysis on the part of the site moderator rather than an attempt to obfuscate, through quasi-scientific conjecture, ad hominem attacks against prominent Low-Carb and Paleo advocates.
The primary author of the site, Evelyn, who goes by the moderator name ‘CarbSane’, has an impressive formal education in Biology, Materials Science/Metallurgy as well as some studies in Biomedical Engineering. It’s very clear from the patronizing tone of many of her posts that she intends to demonstrate her extreme intelligence and ability to cut through the false LC/Paleo rhetoric to every layperson-passer-by on the Internet. Be ready, dear reader, you’re about to be learn how really stupid you are for not having the intellectual clairvoyance to see through the so plainly false claims of the supposed LC/Paleo “gurus” like CarbSane can – shame on you, uninformed, uneducated masses.
“[Gary Taubes’ science is] so wrong, outdated and yet repeated ad infinitum about the web” – Evelyn a.k.a CarbSane
According to her own “about” page, she claims to want to stick to science but admits she discusses various personalities and the information they put forth and boy howdy does she! Her particular beef appears to be with Gary Taubes because his science is “so wrong, outdated and yet repeated ad infinitum about the web”. CarbSane seems to suggest that if you read Taubes’ material and have an opinion about it, lets not spread it across the Internet – unless of course, your CarbSane posting about how ridiculously tenuous Gary Taubes’ grasp is on science.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for informed discourse and I believe this is what The Carb-Sane Asylum is trying to do – to some degree. However, approving of and repeating a comment on a post that calls the Paleo advocate Rob Wolff the “feces whisperer” is not establishing an appearance of willingness to properly argue the validity of Paleo science. It’s just whipping up useless bullying and name calling that does nothing to advance the points made in the post. This is where I think The Carb-Sane Asylum makes its first fatal flaw. The site engages in highly debatable issues but only to the point to attempt to discredit the proponents of the various issues and not the issue’s underlying facts/science. The moderator allows readers to contribute to the verbal abuse of those proponents as an attempt to support the validity of their viewpoint – sort of a low-carb eating is wrong because Gary Taubes is a money-grubbing so-and-so and everybody knows it free for all.
Granted, Robb Wolff may have tweeted a hardy “FU” to CarbSane in a twitter exchange but that doesn’t mean CarbSane has to rise to that level of name calling (even if it’s her audience that’s contributing the most epithets) to discredit his science. These ad hominem attacks don’t strengthen her positions, they radicalize them. The Carb-Sane Asylum’s “about” page mentions that the site isn’t about CarbSane personally. So how about ratcheting-down the bile and not making it about the personalities of the LC/Paleo proponents either. I don’t care of Robb Wolff or Gary Taubes are doo-doo heads for what they say or how they say it. I do care if their underlying research is flawed or unsupportive to their position. Stick to refuting the facts and science – if you can even find evidence to the contrary.
When there is discussion about a particular scientific topic or study, it’s not discussed in a clear, understandable manner to the common person. Here is where I think CarbSane could take a page out of Gary Taubes’ books (although it might cause her to have an apoplectic seizure to admit it). Taubes had some significantly complex concepts to get across to a non-scientific audience that had to first even understand that what they original believed to be true about diet and exercise was wrong. Taubes’ mastery of distilling that highly-complex data into consumable bites is what made his concepts so popular (the fact they appear to be supported, at least in some degree, by scientific evidence certainly also helped). CarbSane’s blogging style peppers so much technical mumbo-jumbo as to make any opposing argument difficult to follow for the average person reading it. And, let’s face it, it’s your average person who is probably visiting the site seeking infromation. My advice to CarbSane? Try to make your points more salient to those who didn’t have the mental rigor to get multiple degrees in Biology and Materials Science.
“[The Carb-Sane Asylum] is not a weight loss or diet blog. This is not a blog advocating for any particular type of eating” – Evelyn a.k.a CarbSane
The second fatal flaw I see in The Carb-Sane Asylum is that the author has no alternative opinions or hypothesis to forward. As CarbSane states about the purpose of her site in her “about” page, “It is not a weight loss or diet blog. This is not a blog advocating for any particular type of eating.” But the fact is it is a site advocating not following several types of eating – with no suggestion as to what should fill the gap. It’s not constructive to engage in debate with only negatives. Simply pointing to certain assertions as fallacies but not offering a counter-argument seems disingenuous to the cause of proving her science correct. If low-carb eating isn’t good for you, what is? If high-fat diets don’t make you feel satisfied, what does? Again, if CarbSane put half the energy she uses to contrive ad hominen tu quoque attacks against LC/Paleo advocates into discussing alternatives or even introducing us to new ‘gurus’ who suggest alternative eating styles, we’d all be better served
So for now, I’m checking out of The Carb-Sane Asylum in search of some less vemenous discourse on the issues of low-carb living.